Friday, June 14, 2013

Rethinking Your Thinking

I enjoy challenging preconceptions including my own all the while understanding that my own will color how I view the legitimacy and applicability of those preconceptions.  This is not to say that I willingly slip into a deconstruction of language and thought centered on what we have as community; rather I just want to know the facts and how to properly interpret them.

That being said, there are times when my bell needs to be rung.  A recent example comes from a blog post by Matt Richard.  Here is his setup:
Today in my Confessions class the professor gave us some words and asked us to organize them.  Why don't you take a chance to arrange them into two categories, too.

Soul - Body - God - Earth - Frog - Heaven - Rock

So, how would you arrange them?
I took the challenge.  Before going on, try this yourself.  If you are a typical church-going American, your answer will be like my first attempt:

Group #1 Group #2
God Earth
Soul Rock
Heaven Body
What does this say about my thought process (and yours if you did the same)?  Read Matt Richard's short post to find out.  Are you unnerved or intrigued at his conclusion?  I was.  One question that immediately came to mind is that if the author is correct, should I care?  Will that worldview make a difference in my Christian walk?

In the past few years I have been in close contact with young couples who have a thorough-going desire to be involved in work for God's kingdom to the extent that life decisions are being made based on feelings, impressions, dreams—any type of input which can be interpreted as a move of the Holy Spirit.  This is not a new phenomenon in Christian circles.  Second-century heterodox teaching of the Gnostics and Montanists sought to place the spiritual above the material, living "by the Spirit" or "in the spiritual realm" as a distinctive.  Later, godly men and women separated themselves, living in desert places in order to pursue spiritual ideals.

Why do Christians pursue this experiential spirituality?  Whether second or twenty-first century, the answer lies in the perceived state of the church.  The local or regional church is seen as becoming lethargic or corrupt, and those seeking to be pure in their lives, search for opportunities to enhance their spiritual existence in order to be cleansed from the world and whatever of the world has infiltrated the church.  In order to effect a personal or corporate cleansing, the spiritual is emphasized as being better or more legitimate in the kingdom of heaven than the material.  But God's word makes no such distinction.  Does the church need reforming?  Yes, but the answer is not to withdraw into a private or isolated existence—i.e., operating independently from the fellowship of believers in the understanding of doctrine and decisions of conduct.

An improper view of the Christian life, then, leads to poor judgment, so that a self-assessed level of derived spirituality becomes the chief factor in decision-making.  I have seen this multiple times in the past couple of years: naming children based on an impression; proposing to a future spouse because of a dream; planning to go on a missions trip to a foreign country without spouse and children for an indeterminate period of time; traveling cross-country to work in an undetermined and unestablished work venture.  These individuals are giving more credence to their feelings of what God has said and done, than what he actually has said and done as clearly revealed in their Bibles.  Why were these impressions even considered?  Solely because the decision process seemed more spiritual in nature or the anticipated work effort is attributed by the Christian cultural as having a greater association with a holy endeavor.

Humans are both corporeal and spiritual: God designed and created them this way.  Attempting to separate the two or emphasizing the one above the other is to pursue what was never intended.  Opening to spiritual forces perceived to be the movement of the Holy Spirit only leads to disruption within the individual, the family, and the church, especially when coupled with attempts to inhibit the effects of the sin nature through measures of asceticism.  The scriptural example of a spirit-filled life is a sober mind and self-control (Titus 2:1-6), not mysticism and self-flagellation.  Our minds are to be transformed to discern the will of God (Rom 12:2) not in a mystical sense, but
with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Phil 1:9-11)
We might give heed to Martin Luther's admonition:
Should not the heart, then, leap and melt for joy when going to work and doing what is commanded, saying: Lo, this is better than all holiness of [those who] kill themselves fasting and praying upon their knees without ceasing?  For here you have a sure text and a divine testimony that He has commanded this; but concerning the other He did not command a word.  But this is the plight and miserable blindness of the world that no one believes these things; to such an extent the devil has deceived us with false holiness and the glamor of our own works.
Large Catechism, I.120


Stephen Pohl said...

Interesting Steve. I did not break them into groups but listed them in order of Existence and creation from God to man's soul.


Substance and form: True God and True Man, consubstantial with the Father. Then you have the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation and the Catholic transubstansiation in the Eucharist.

Interesting psot and link.

Steve Bricker said...

"Listed them in order of Existence and creation from God to man's soul."

You always have tended to think "outside the box." :-)